Bolivia postponed its general elections on Thursday for a second time because of the coronavirus pandemic, putting it off until October 18, officials said.
Salvador Romero, who heads the country’s electoral court, said the decision to delay the elections again came after medical experts warned that COVID-19 infections would peak in Bolivia in late August or early September.
“The definitive date for the election gives better conditions for health protection, outside voting facilities and the arrival of international observer missions,” said Romero.
A second round run-off — should there be one — would take place on November 29, the electoral court chief added.
The Catholic Church joined forces with conservatives earlier Thursday to push for a postponement in response to a rise in coronavirus infections.
Bolivia has recorded more than 64,000 COVID-19 cases and over 2,300 deaths from the disease.
Party of former president Morales wanted September date
The Movement for Socialism party of former president Evo Morales, whose candidate Luis Arce led the most recent opinion polls, insisted that the election should go ahead on the original September date.
But Romero said that “elections require the maximum possible security.”
However, he acknowledged that Bolivia was suffering from “serious polarization” and that the reasons for Morales’s resignation following a controversial poll he won last October “have not disappeared.”
Morales fled the country in November following three weeks of protests over his re-election in a poll he was constitutionally barred from standing in.
He had tried to hold on to power but lost the backing of the country’s military after an Organization of American States audit found clear evidence of election fraud.
Morales is currently living in exile in Argentina and is barred from standing in the general election, even as a legislator.
Former conservative Senate vice president Jeanine Anez assumed the interim presidency after Morales left the country but her tenure — originally intended merely as a stopgap until new elections could be organized — has been criticized for dragging on and lacking legitimacy.